25 militants, five soldiers killed in Pakistan (Second lead)

July 30th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
Islamabad, July 30 (DPA) Twenty-five militants and five Pakistani Army soldiers were killed Wednesday in an attack on a security checkpoint in Pakistan’s troubled north-west Swat Valley, officials said. The fighting erupted early morning when dozens of militants targeted government troops in the Ucharai Sar area of the valley’s Matta sub-district, a stronghold of rebels loyal to local radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

“The attack was successfully repulsed, resulting in the death of 25 miscreants…One officer, one junior commissioned officer and three soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in the action,” the military’s chief spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said.

Several other insurgents were also wounded, he added.

According to Abbas, security forces deployed in the valley were taking “appropriate measures” to counter the increasingly hostile activities of the “miscreants.”

Authorities also declared a curfew in Swat Wednesday.

The curfew was declared after a spate of attacks in which militants blew up a state-owned hotel and an army guest house in the country’s only ski resort of Malam Jabba. The abandoned hotel was also torched last month.

A school for girls and several bridges in other towns were also destroyed by homemade bombs.

Fighting between government troops and militants in the Matta and Kabal areas of Swat intensified after the curfew was imposed.

Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Taliban active in the area, claimed the militants had killed 25 soldiers and destroyed two armoured personnel carriers.

“Only five of our mujahideen died and seven were injured in the attack,” he told DPA over phone from an undisclosed location.

Violence has resurged in recent weeks in Swat, about 300 km north-west of the national capital, after Islamist militants resumed attacks on security officials despite a two-month peace deal.

Scores of rebels Tuesday seized more than two dozen police and paramilitary troops after laying siege to a security check post in the town of Kabal.

“At the moment we have 37 security personnel in our captivity,” Khan said.

The kidnappings came a day after militants gunned down three intelligence officers at a roadblock.

The military launched a crackdown on armed supporters of a firebrand cleric in Swat in November and the operation continued until March when the new government initiated peace talks with the guerrillas, bringing a brief lull in the violence.

A fragile ceasefire was reached in May, but the militants kept carrying out sporadic attacks on security forces amid claims that the military was violating the accord.

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